Is the Settlement of Rio Tinto’s “Marketing Hub” Transfer Pricing Dispute the Shape of Things to Come?

In July 2022 the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Rio Tinto Ltd (Rio Tinto) announced they had reached a settlement that brought to an end all tax disputes, including a long-standing dispute in relation to Rio Tinto’s Singapore “marketing hub”. The settlement involved payment of almost AUD 1 billion by Rio Tinto to the ATO. That followed a settlement in late 2018 between the ATO and BHP Billiton Ltd concerning BHP’s Singapore marketing hub and requiring the payment of AUD 529 million by BHP. The settlements confirm that the ATO is continuing to protect the Australian tax base by making sure taxpayers comply with their international transfer pricing obligations. The authors examine the Rio Tinto and BHP settlements and the tax treatment of marketing hubs, and make a number of observations on the implications of the settlements for transfer pricing in Australia.